The indomitable Chechen fighters and their supporters have done it again, catching Vladimir Putin on the hop. On April 14, Adam Deniyev, the second most senior leader of the pro-Kremlin administration in Chechnya, was assassinated by a bomb as he left a television studio. His death, immediately after he appeared live on television, was both a blow to the Russians’ puppet administration and its pretensions of legitimacy, and a major humilation. Promoted by Russia’s secret services, Deniyev had established himself in the Russian-approved Chechen administration of collaborators, and awarded himself the title of “Caliph”.
A few days later, a group of armed men described as “pro-Chechen rebels” stormed a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, and seized hostages. Armed with automatic rifles and shotguns, they demanded to speak with Saadettin Tantan, the Turkish interior minister, saying that all they wished to achieve was to draw attention to the Chechen war, which the world was ignoring. Having accomplished both their aims, the activists released the hostages unharmed and surrendered to the Istanbul police. As a major incident in a Western tourist destination, the seizure of the hotel achieved greater world-wide publicity than the assassination of Deniyev, and highlighted the ongoing war in Chechnya for a global public that had virtually forgotten it.
The Russian government, which pretended that Putin’s visit to Chechnya had repaired the damage done by Deniyev’s assassination, and must have wanted the Chechen issue to stay out of the headlines, must have been disappointed by the activists’ dramatic success in airing the issue, and in behaving in a manner that could not be called terrorism. This was the latest in a number of setbacks within a fortnight, coming only two days after the UN human rights commission had issued a stinging censure on human-rights abuses in Chechnya.
The UN commission, sitting in Geneva, Switzerland, voted on April 20 to denounce Moscow for its disproportionate use of force to quell the uprising in Chechnya. The vote came after talks between Moscow and the European Union, which had sponsored the resolution, collapsed. The 53-member commission voted by 22 to 12 in favour of condemning Russia for its abuses. Cuba, India, Libya and Nigeria were among those that supported Russia; China even protested loudly against the vote. Nineteen countries abstained. Russia’s delegate, Oleg Malginov, said that Moscow would not be bound by the resolution.
Last year Moscow was also censured by the UN commission for its abuses in Chechnya: the first time a member of the security council had been condemned by the UN human-rights body. Then Moscow was called upon to launch an inquiry into atrocities against civilians. The inquiry set up by Moscow has proved ridiculous; human-rights groups have since issued a string of reports condemning Moscow’s failure to carry out any proper investigation.
But neither the UN commission’s resolutions nor the human-rights organisations’ reports would have been issued had it not been for the Chechen people’s refusal to submit, and their determination — implemented at great cost to themselves and huge embarrassment to the Russians — to win. The so-called international community cannot have any credit for censuring Russian abuses. After all, the UN resolution fails to condemn the war-crimes being committed against a Muslim people subjected to two wars, in which a superpower used heavy military equipment and reduced many cities and villages to rubble.
Muslims all over the world who support the Chechen cause can take comfort in the fighters’ ability to stand up to the Russians and to cause them ceaseless embarrassment, despite the destruction of their homes and the heavy loss of human lives. One recent example of this ability to harass the Russian government came in mid-April, when Deniyev was assassinated in an effective demonstration to Chechen collaborators with the Russians of what will happen to them unless they sever their traitorous links with the enemy.
Ahmad Kadyrov, the chief Chechen traitor, who is head of the pro-Kremlin administration, blames Aslan Maskhadov, the Chechen fighters’ leader, for the death of his deputy. “This is another act of terrorism,” he said. “They have killed somebody who was trying by every means possible to restore normal life to Chechnya.” In fact Kadrov and Deniyev, before his death, were the ones committing acts of terrorism in the service of their Russian bosses. In 1999, for instance, a US state department report on the murder of six Red Cross nurses, shot dead in their beds in Chechnya in 1996, named Deniyev as a suspect.
Such traitors deserve execution, as do Muslim leaders who vote with Russia at the UN human rights commission, and thereby betray a very brave people.